Facts seem to have lost their resonance in may areas today, but in marketing, they’re still king of the castle.
They call the shots.
Whether it’s big data, qual, quant, O.T.S, ROI, A/B testing, name any marketing abbreviation, if numbers are involved they must be obeyed.
These numbers get distilled into rules.
It makes sense, who wouldn’t want to use previous learnings to improve future performance?
But somehow, applying these learnings to creative work often feels uncomfortable, less like improving and more like destroying.
You watch your fresh simple idea gradually become more complicated, more clichéd and more like the rest of the ads you ignore every day.
It’s estimated that 91% of all ads are ignored.
But creating ads that are similar to the 91% is considered playing it safe, doing something different is considered risky.
Although common sense tells you this is wrong, those who write the cheques often tell you this is right.
Putting your gut against their ‘facts’ is a non-starter, it’s like turning up to a knife fight with a spoon.
So, step by step, the work, which at the beginning divided people into those who loved it and those who were anxious about it, turns into something that everybody is in total agreement about; Meh.
Nobody in the room loves it, but who cares, surely it’ll resonate with the public out there?
Steven Spielberg was once asked, at a moment when he had half of the top ten biggest grossing films ever, how he managed to pick such blockbuster scripts – “I look for scripts I like, I figure if I like them other people might like them too.”
The best demonstrations of this process I’ve seen are both made up.
First, an example I came across in the eighties, written by Rob Morris it showed a Parker Pen ad getting worse and worse by applying more and more client feedback.
Although heightened in places for comedic effect, what was clever was that many of the comments seem are rational, sensible and make good business sense.
The results of implementing them however, are catastrophic.
A few years after reading I found out that it was based on an old article produced about a decade before using a VW ad.
I’ve since ripped these articles off a few times to explain to clients how well-meaning, thoughtful input can lead to less effective advertising, that small changes can have big consequences.
It’s the classic frog boiling experiment. (Word on the street is that a frog doesn’t notice the temperature increasing incrementally until it’s too late.)
Below are four frogs being boiled.
ROB MORRIS’S RIP OFF OF FRED MANLEY’S GREAT, ORIGINAL IDEA.